Ilham Ehmed, co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council / ANF
Lately, Syria has started heading towards uncertainty. This uncertainty is widening the divide between the US and Russia. The relationship and the talks between the two powers on Syria have ended since.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Baath regime has started to advance in Aleppo and Homs. Turkey’s invasion of Jarablus also continues to expand.
Syrian Democratic Council (MSD) Co-chair Ilham Ehmed spoke to ANF on the current situation, recent developments, the efforts of Northern Syria and Rojava Federation and the dangers that await Rojava and Northern Syria. Ehmed stressed that the Kurds and the peoples of the region need to insist on democracy and a decentralised system in order to avoid a return to the old Syria. Ehmed also pointed out that Turkey’s forces in Iraq are an obstacle in liberating Mosul from ISIS.
This is the second part of the interview with Ilham Ehmed. Read the first part here.
What kind of Syria do the powers with influence over the country and region want?
The map of which power wants what in Syria isn’t totally clear yet. Even if it is, it hasn’t been announced to the Syrian people, the peoples of the region or the world. So, it isn’t clear whether the US wants a fragmented Syria, united Syria, federal Syria, or a centralised Syria. It isn’t clear yet what kind of a Syria Russia wants. In their statements occasionally they say the rights of the Kurdish people must be guaranteed, but I don’t think they are entirely clear on which model they want. Maybe they are, but they haven’t announced it to the public yet.
The developments show that the war and the crisis in Syria will continue. A solution will probably be sought after the presidential elections in the US are completed and the new administration takes over. So, for now, it doesn’t look like there will be a clear path to a solution and it will be adhered to very soon.
What is the path the Kurds and the peoples of Northern Syria taking in this chaos and crisis?
The Kurds have parties and powers they are facing in this deep crisis and chaos. On the one hand there is ISIS, and on the other the Turkish state. These two are the parties the Kurds face frequently. And occasionally they face the regime.
The Kurds and the peoples of the region have to defend themselves against these forces. In order to avoid a return to a centralised system, they need to insist on democracy and a decentralised system. And they need to take practical steps so they are part of the political solution. They need to be insistent in the steps they take. Whether these steps lead to Raqqa, to Bab or Aleppo, there needs to be steps for them to take in order to guarantee their inclusion in the political solution. There are powers that don’t want this to be so, primarily Turkey. That is why they are trying to prevent these steps. It doesn't seem like a solution will develop in the next two, three months, but in six months or so, some details of the solution will emerge.
We are engaging diplomatic and political efforts to have our Northern Syria Federation project accepted. We explain it to parties we meet with and tell them it should be accepted and officially recognised. Even if they don’t accept it, we expect them to make statements that the project is good. These efforts continue with the US, Russia and the regime. So we meet with all powers with influence in the region and especially in Syria. We have discussions on this matters. We continue our officialisation efforts. The problem is not just the Northern Syria model, it transcends that. It’s the whole of Syria. We are looking for a solution to the complete issue of Syria. That is what our efforts are for, because we are the owners of such a project. Our efforts are to solve the issue in this way. In a way, we are offering a road map for a solution. There are powers that have positive returns to our initiatives. For example, Russia has a positive approach, and they respond positively. There are other countries and powers that see this as positive. Because it’s not a system to refuse. Those who don’t want to say no, state that it’s the Syrian peoples’ decision to make.
The agenda changed regarding Turkey’s forces in Iraq and Mosul suddenly, why?
The liberation of Mosul, pushing ISIS out is on the agenda. The US wants Mosul to be liberated in this period. It will be good for morale before the election in the US and it will affect the outcome. Turkey is an obstacle in the liberation of Mosul with their practices. It’s almost like they don’t want Mosul to be cleared off ISIS. Turkey’s forces in Iraq are an obstacle in liberating Mosul from ISIS. All their practices prove this point. But despite all that, they still insist on taking part in the Mosul operation. Actually this is a situation that can be read in different ways. And there have been some statements. There have been analyses that Turkey is in the region to protect ISIS and their emirs. Several parties don’t accept Turkey’s insistence on taking part in the Mosul operation. For example, the Shiites don’t accept this. The rest of the peoples in Iraq don’t either. Until now, Turkey continuously claimed they should be involved in the operation if the PKK is going to be. They used PKK as an excuse. Lately, PKK’s involvement in the operation is not on the table. Iraqi representatives assembly issued the decree on Turkey’s forces, with the approval from the US.
What was the defensive statement from Turkey in the face of that? They said their forces were stationed there with approval from Southern Kurdistan authorities. They said they were expecting a call from the Southern Kurdistani authorities to join the operation. Southern authorities haven’t made a substantial statement yet. They haven’t made any statement on whether what Turkey claims is right or wrong. We think this decree by the Iraqi representatives assembly is positive. The decree states that they will file complaints in international courts for whoever accepts Turkey’s forces staying in Iraq and taking part in the Mosul liberation operation. And there is an emphasis that those people will be considered traitors.
Among all the chaos and crisis, there are the remnants of the Kurdish National Council (ENKS). They are also trying to do something. What are they trying to do?
Some remnants of the ENKS have made up their minds, as far as we’re concerned. They have decided to stay in the line of the Syrian National Coalition, who constantly attacks Sheikh Maqsoud and massacres civilians there. They insist on seeing themselves, their existence within that. There is nowhere else that they can be a part of. This is why they object to and work against the Rojava Autonomous Administration, the Federation and every project for a solution developed in Rojava and Northern Syria. They slander and accuse. They are playing a bad game. And they continue to play the bad games they can.
For example, they continue their effort to put the Rojava Autonomous Administration in the same bracket as ISIS. These are bad efforts. They are destructive. I am of the opinion that they are experiencing political blindness. Because all international powers consider the Rojava Autonomous Administration as a democratic force. They see it as a will that is the most serious fighting force against ISIS.
They also see it as a force for a solution. But these people (ENKS) are so blind that they can’t see this. They knock on every door and say that the autonomous administration is like ISIS. International developments are based on an anti-ISIS stance. This administration and its defense forces are the force and will that have fought ISIS the most and most effectively. The whole world has seen and appreciated this. In such a period, there is nothing more idiotic than claiming it is the same as ISIS. They are trying to complain about us to the international powers. They are trying influence heir opinions and decisions. It is not possible solely for individuals to affect decisions for countries. Maybe they will look like they are listening, but behind their backs they are mocking them.
They are shooting themselves in the foot and will be finished if they continue insisting on this counter line. They are consuming themselves. The insistence to not see the reality of Rojava and Northern Syria, the developments that emerge in this reality, the solution, unity and the democratic will is a great danger for them. We are going through a period when every player is looking to define the region according to their own interests. Not seeing these developments and the change, and continuing with the known, classical policies, is to self-destruct. That is what they are experiencing now. And therefore Turkey and only Turkey enjoy what they have to say. And that provides them with some money. Beyond that, it won’t get them anything, they shouldn’t fool themselves. The only thing they have left to do is to turn back from this practice and focus on efforts to consolidate national unity. Other than that, they have no way out. But still, it is their own decision to make.
- Kurdish Question
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